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review 2017-06-03 01:39
ARC Review: Symbols by Mario Kai Lipinski
Symbols - Mario Kai Lipinski

Gosh, I wanted to love this book. I mean, read the blurb - the bullied kid who's spent his days hiding from everyone slowly falls for the gentle giant at the high school they both attend, until an act of violence threatens to tear them both apart... yeah, I signed up immediately for the ARC.

And for the first half or so, this book held me in its grip, as the story between Matt, the bullied kid, and Shane, the gentle giant, unfolds, as Matt begins to trust Shane, as they fall in love and forge a path together.

Yes, sure, there were some issues with the dialogue, which I attributed to the author not being a native speaker and not living in the US so research into how teens talk these days would have been tricky. And yes, sure, the principal pontificates to Shane when he first starts about there being a zero-tolerance policy at the school, and yet she has no idea that Matt has been bullied for years, hiding in corners, shaking and utterly miserable, terrified, in tears, something that even the cafeteria cashier has noticed, yet the principal has no clue - how's that possible? And why wouldn't the cafeteria cashier talk to an adult at the school? Many of the bullying incidents happen in hallways or inside the cafeteria, and yet nobody addresses it.

Still, it was engaging, and was invested.

However, right about the time, Matt is beaten up and ends up in a coma in the hospital, this book took a massive nose-dive. The asshole detective that arrests Shane for allegedly causing Matt's injuries (he didn't), the subplot with Shane engaging Matt's long-time nemesis to find the real perpetrator, the court date, the dramatic last minute rescue by Shane's former friend, the drama with Matt's mother's reaction to Shane's size, the nasty old woman on the bus, and, and, and - it was just all too much and too over the top and too unrealistic in how much was piled on Matt and Shane's shoulders.

Look, I got that the author tried to make the point that one shouldn't judge a book by its cover, i.e. a teenager by his size and tattoos, but good grief, that point wasn't just made so much as hammered home time and again. And Shane, whom I adored, just took the judgments time and again, making all kinds of excuses for people's reactions to him. I hated that he did that. I hated that people would judge him just based on his looks and not his actions. For Matt's mother to think that Shane had hurt Matt, for anyone to think that Shane would hurt a fucking fly just because he's super tall, just pissed me off.

And yeah, I knew who the villain was going to be, but the reasoning behind the violent attack was pathetic. The perpetrator's characterization up to that point didn't indicate anything like what was given as a reason - I didn't buy it at all, and thought that it was just too convenient.

I loved both Matt and Shane, and I loved how gentle Shane was with Matt, and how Matt came out of his shell over time, and became the stronger one of the two. Their relationship was well done, and the author did a fantastic job bringing across the emotional bond between the two young men. What I didn't like so much were the multiple incidents of miscommunication and false assumptions that both of them make, but I chalked that off to them being young.

I think it can be very difficult for a non-native speaker to successfully write authentic dialogue as language continually evolves, especially in this day and age, and that the manner in which teens talk cannot be gleaned from, say, books, TV shows, or movies.

The premise was fantastic - the execution not so much. Still, three stars is nothing to scoff at. I did enjoy reading this book for the most part, and I did love Matt and Shane.


** I received a free copy of this book from its publisher. A positive review was not promised in return. **

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review 2017-04-16 01:02
ARC Review: Relationship Status by K.A. Mitchell
Relationship Status - K.A. Mitchell

This obviously had the potential to be super-angsty, especially when we were in Wyatt's head, but it wasn't. It was mostly delightful to revisit Ethan and Wyatt and watch them find their way to a happily ever after. Also, the epilogue was like icing on the happy cake.

This is the third book in this trilogy, and it shouldn't be read as a standalone. It's actually best, now that book 3 is published, to read them all back to back.

I do love Ethan and Wyatt, even though they can be complicated, immature and annoying, and as a couple, they have the potential to crash and burn, but both of them are committed to their relationship. They struggle, of course, especially since Ethan doesn't always understand what drives Wyatt, and how his history continues to influence the decisions he makes, and how he sees himself. Wyatt comes across as resentful on occasion that Ethan's life to date has been fairly easy, and seemingly forgets that Ethan has been hurt too.

Some of the issues felt forced to me, though I liked that Wyatt didn't freeze out Ethan this time around as he had in the past, when Ethan does something immature. Part of me was also hoping that Ethan would have grown up a bit more in this book, but that wasn't always the case. I never doubted that he thought Wyatt hung the moon, but Ethan does on occasion come across as rather immature. I realize they're both still very young, so maybe I should cut them some slack.

In this book, they're also not living in dorms anymore - they're renting a room in a crappy apartment for the summer while doing internships - so this newfound freedom and privacy translates into lots and lots of sexy times, though, while definitely hot, there were so many that I started skimming them toward the end.

It also occurred to me during my reading of this book that this trilogy might have worked better overall if the three books had been released as one large volume, because neither book 1 nor book 2 really told the whole story. There is growth for both Wyatt and Ethan in this final book, which I appreciated, and they're better at being adults than in the first two, but Ethan still tends to fall back on his parents, whereas Wyatt doesn't really have that option. His uncle is still in the picture, and there's some additional plot around that, which I thought was rather well done, even if it felt like a bit much - it did highlight that Wyatt and Ethan do work as a couple, and that Ethan has a really good heart, and that Wyatt has finally started believing that they have a future.

Overall, this book was a fitting ending to this trilogy, and I enjoyed reading it.

** I received a free copy of this book from its publisher via Netgalley. A positive review was not promised in return. **

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review 2017-02-23 01:04
ARC Review: Class Distinctions by Rick R. Reed
Class Distinctions - Rick R. Reed

I read the 2nd edition of this book, out 2/25/17. 

 

 

 

A quick glimpse into the relationship and almost break-up of two college kids who are young, dumb, and in love.

Kyle and Jonathan, both freshmen at university, are madly in love. Except Kyle is ashamed of his humble background and believes that Jonathan and his rich parents will look down on Kyle's poor mother when they'll meet at the upcoming Parents' Weekend.

So, clearly, it's easier to just break Jonathan's heart, and his own. Right? Wrong!

In actuality, this book is simply too short. We don't get a full picture of their relationship, so it's difficult (not impossible) for the reader to put herself into the shoes of these young and dumb kids.

I would applaud Jonathan for not giving up on Kyle (after the initial shock wears off), and going after what he wants, demanding an explanation for that which is to him inexplicable. He does listen and learns something new about his boyfriend.

Kyle too learns that maybe he should have not assumed and instead be a grown-up and talk about his fears. Pulling the crap he pulled didn't win him any favors with me, even if I could to some extent understand his fears. Shame wasn't a good look on him, and while I felt sorry for him during his pain, he did bring this on himself.

The author does a really good job exploring the relationship each boy has with his mother, and that's where this book really worked. I also liked that we got a dual POV, as both Jonathan and Kyle deal with their equally broken hearts. There was a lot of emotion that really came across well in those lines.

I also liked that they both felt drawn to the special place where they shared their first kiss, and thus got a chance to find their way back to each other.

Still... not my favorite by this author. I think this story might have worked a little better if we had been given a bit of a lead-up to their almost break-up, and thus seen why they were so devastated, instead of simply being told they were.


** I received a free copy of this book from Signal Boost promotions as part of the re-release of this story. A positive review was not promised in return. **

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review 2017-01-21 00:31
ARC Review: Flag On The Play by Sherrie Henry
Flag on the Play - Sherrie Henry
While the author accurately captured the voices of the teenagers in this book, with their struggles and figuring out who they are, I thought that the amount of issues piled within were a bit much.

Liam, our protagonist, is a junior in a small town high school, the punter on the school's football team, and gay. He knows he's gay, and he's okay with that, but there's no way he can let on about that, because his parents drag him to church on Sundays, and all he's ever heard from the pulpit of the local Baptist church is that homosexuality is sin.

I felt sorry for him after just a few pages, empathizing with him about the impossibly situation he's in.

Enter Cody, new student, in town temporarily due to his father's job, who becomes the new star player on the football team. Also, he's gay too.

I liked the story well so far, and looked forward to how Liam and Cody would navigate the rough waters ahead.

I thought that the depiction of the relationship, first love, the inability to keep their hands off each other even in risky places, the jealousy Liam feels at Cody's pretend-GF (who doesn't know she's a beard) were all well done, but I didn't think that the self-harm issue was handled with sufficient depth.

While Liam's parents, especially his mother, were supportive at the eventual reveal that their son is gay, I also felt that the climax and subsequent ending weren't handled with enough depth either. I would have liked to see some closure to what happened, and I would have liked to see an epilogue of sorts that showed how Liam and Cody fare after the main part of the story ended.

I did like the inclusion of the Wiccan beliefs and how it was juxtaposed to the Christian conservative beliefs to which Liam's parents subscribed. The jarring differences between Cody's parents and Liam's parents were also well done, if somewhat one-dimensional.

I would recommend that this book carry trigger warnings, especially since it's geared toward young adults, considering the self-harm issue it discusses within. Yes, the cutting is mentioned in the blurb, but I felt that the dangers of cutting were not sufficiently explained, nor did I believe that Liam, once repeatedly flooded with those endorphins, would so easily be able to stop cutting.

While the issues raised within were realistic, they weren't fully resolved to my satisfaction. YMMV. Overall, a good effort. This was my first book by this author.

 
 I received a free copy of this book from its publisher. A positive review was not promised in return. 

 

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text 2017-01-06 02:55
ARC Review: More Things In Heaven And Earth by Paul Comeau
More Things in Heaven and Earth - Paul Comeau

No rating. This book didn't work for me on a variety of levels.

 

** I received a free copy of this book from its publisher. A positive review was not promised in return. **

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